Although I previously knew next to nothing about techno, electronica or any other kind of club music, hearing the "Spirit in the Sky" rhythmic base of "Ooh La La" from Goldfrapp's 2005 album Supernature was like having a head-on collision with an instantly recognizable musical landmark. If I paid any attention at all to the Grammys, I'd have known Supernature was nominated for Outstanding Dance Album that year.
Still, several of my more with-it young female acquaintances couldn't believe I even knew about Goldfrapp at all. (See Rotation for a review of the British duo's latest LP, Seventh Tree.) To a woman, they explained, "They get no radio play, so if you don't hang out in clubs, you don't know these people."
Afterward, as I tooled around MySpace on my daily musical cyber-hunt, I started paying more attention to acts touting themselves as club, techno or electronica, and came away with a newfound appreciation for the following European discotheque denizens.
European dance music
Tying Tiffany (Italy): The hard-rocking Tying Tiffany is my favorite of all the technoids I've thus far encountered in cyberspace. Her latest effort, 2007's Brain for Breakfast, will compress your head into shapes you didn't know were possible. "I Wanna Be Your MP3" is a guaranteed loss of control on the dance floor, "Unstoppable Spanker" takes Blondie into the 22nd century, and the frenetic "Pazza" lets some Ritalin-fueled punk rocker grab the drum-machine dials and set a nutria loose on the synthesizer.
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Martin Solveig (Paris): Solveig brings a sense of fun, lightness and a bit of smarty-pants attitude to his mixes. His site currently features multiple versions of "C'est La Vie," a teaser from his upcoming album. If you don't think you're into the whole club/DJ thing, seek out one of those versions and see how much control of your pleasure impulse you really have. Stevie Wonder meets Duran Duran.
Robert Le Magnifique (France): Categorically, Magnifique lists his music as "electro/hip-hop/drum & bass." With tracks like the laconic but scratchy "No Buzz Anymore," I don't care what he calls it — it's cool, as is much of the rest of his jazzy Attractive Kinky Muse.
Cinthie (Berlin): This German techno fraulein started spinning when she was 16, before working for Undercover Music Group and then Sony, and began composing her own stuff at age 21. Cinthie has since been all over Europe and the Middle East but has yet to land on U.S. shores; her "Air Robique" has the absolute essentials of groove, sex and mystery.
NAIF (Aosta, Italy): These three women headily mix classical piano and acoustic guitar with wispy Italian pop, then run it through a cement mixer plugged into a time machine. There are moments on their Femminino Anarkico Project where cough syrup, classical music and Fellini collide. "Lo Sono Il Mare" bumps and grinds and scratches through thick grooves and layered loops that grind bones. Smart, sexy, non-manic dance-o-tech.